Rangers take commanding 2-0 lead on Devils; Maple Leafs blow out Lightning to even series
NEWARK, N.J. — At some point soon, the Devils may want to start paying attention to Chris Kreider.
The Rangers’ all-time leading postseason goal-scorer has burned them four times through the first two games of the first round, including twice Thursday at Prudential Center.
That propelled the Blueshirts to a 5-1 win in Game 2, putting them firmly in control with a 2-0 series lead before they’ve even played a game on their home ice.
All four of Kreider’s goals have come on power play tips and deflections around the New Jersey net. Everyone in the building knows it’s coming, but the Devils still haven’t been able to defend it.
Both of Thursday’s tallies occurred during a three-goal second period that gave the Rangers the upper hand for good, pushing the 31-year-old forward’s franchise record to 38 career playoff goals. Patrick Kane assisted on both on his way to a memorable three-point night.
It left the Devils licking their wounds as the series shifts to Madison Square Garden for Game 3 on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. They’ll need to win four of the next five games to overcome their deficit, with three of those games scheduled to take place on the road.
A tall order, indeed.
Patrick Kane silences doubters
Notably, the primary assists on both Kreider goals came from Kane.
The final piece the Rangers added at the trade deadline had a quiet Game 1, but made his presence felt Thursday. The first power-play goal came on a long wrist shot from the point, with the second coming after Kane drew the defense toward the middle of the ice and weaved a pass to a wide-open Kreider to the right of the net.
That quieted questions about whether Kane is the best choice to play the right circle on the Rangers’ loaded top PP unit.
Then No. 88 dealt the final gut punch at the 6:34 mark in the third period.
After aggressively lifting Jesper Bratt‘s stick and picking his pocket in the defensive zone, Kane capitalized on his own takeaway. The three-time Stanley Cup champion calmly skated toward Vítek Vaněček, went forehand-to-backhand and flicked a top-shelf shot over the Jersey goalie’s left shoulder.
The highlight of the night − and Kane’s signature moment so far in his New York tenure − ended any hopes the Devils had of a comeback. Rangers‘ supporters in attendance erupted, while the home fans began to head for the exits.
While Kane and Kreider led the way, defenseman Adam Fox also notched a pair of assists, upping his series total to six. The Norris Trophy candidate is off to an especially strong start on both ends of the ice.
The fifth and final goal was scored by Kaapo Kakko, who unloaded a one-timer from the slot off a feed from Filip Chytil. Vladimir Tarasenko opened the scoring for the Rangers, tying the game with his second goal of the series.
While the Blueshirts’ offense hummed once again, their defense remained rock solid. They’ve allowed only two goals through two games to one of the NHL’s best offensive teams, with neither coming at five-on-five. They were smothering in Game 2 while limiting Jersey to just 22 shots on goal.
Vincent Z. Mercogliano is the New York Rangers beat reporter for the USA TODAY Network. Read more of his work at lohud.com/sports/rangers/ and follow him on Twitter @vzmercogliano.
TORONTO – John Tavares had his first playoff hat trick and the Toronto Maple Leafs rebounded from a poor playoff start with a lopsided 7-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night to even the teams’ first-round playoff series at a game apiece.
Mitch Marner had two goals and an assist, William Nylander added a goal and an assist, and Zach Aston-Reese also scored for Toronto.
Morgan Rielly tied a franchise record with four assists. Auston Matthews also had two assists for the Maple Leafs, whose stars stepped up.
Ilya Samsonov made 19 saves for Toronto after being pulled in Tuesday’s 7-3 loss.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: NHL playoffs: Rangers take 2-0 lead on Devils; Maple Leafs even series
Source: Yahoo Sports